When I was in Vienna, I harboured a secret: a beautifully designed ballgown folded up in a compact square in my suitcase, wedged under a pair of comfortable ballet flats. As life is full of uncertainty and surprise, I was prepared for any eventuality that would serve as my pumpkin coach to the St Boniface Institute Ball: that Polish Pretend Son would suddenly take it into his head to carry his family off to Minsk instead, or that Godling would revolt and seek refuge with her grandparents, or that Polish Daughter-in-Law would be summoned to the Eastern Borderlands to smooth out some family wrinkle. Happily, none of these possibilities hardened into actuality, and meanwhile I had yesterday's Waltzing Party to look forward to.
Ambitious Plan #1
I seem to recall positing in Seraphic Singles the Blog that older, married Catholics should organize social activities for the younger, unmarried faithful. And indeed a few years ago one of the parish mothers and I agreed that it would be a very good thing to organize a ball for all the Trad families scattered across Great Britain, so that the Trad young could meet each other under amusing circumstances in the company of their parents. (I read many Georgette Heyer novels; can you tell?) My friend's lively, pretty daughters, then in their teens, agreed. Unfortunately, I never worked out how it could be done without great expense, bother, and fuss.
Ambitious Plan #2
Then before the Covid crisis, as I believe we call it at work, a local Austrian friend disclosed to me that he would like to take a group from our community to waltzing lessons and then carry them off on a pilgrimage to Vienna's waltzing season. I thought this was a splendid idea, but then the lamps started going off all over Europe, as it were, and any waltzes to speak of went underground.
Now the lamps have been lit again and the waltzes have come back upstairs and, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, our local Austrian friend gave me an impromptu dance lesson. So I lost my head and said aloud that it would be lovely to have a party in which the young people could learn to waltz, and our Austrian friend agreed, and some parents also agreed.
I was asked about it the next Sunday before a young person, and when I explained to the young person what I had proposed, her face lit up like a spring dawn. So I rolled up my sleeves and wrote to various authorities, including the safeguarding officer, to book the parish hall. I did this as a private person, quite independent of our chaplains, following the model of people who book the hall for christening parties and wedding receptions. To underscore the privateness/independence of the party, I wrote out 19 invitations including 29 people, and to underscore my sterlingness of character and cover any official objections, I impressed upon the mothers of any invited guest under 18 that they had to come, too. The invitations I left to our new dancing master to distribute while I was in Vienna.
Meanwhile, I wrote a goodly number of emails to those governing the parish hall, followed up with a telephone call as time wore on, sent the completed, scanned application form to authority, paid the fee, bought a bottle of squash and a bag of coffee, made a cake, and noted that only a tiny remnant had yet sent RSVPs. I chalked this up to RSVPs being unusual for the Facebook--let alone the Snapchat--generation.
However, on Sunday morning after After-Mass Tea while the boys were stacking chairs, my old friend Anxiety took me by the hand, gazed into my eyes with false compassion, and asked where all the girls were. The alarm clock on my phone went off at 2:29 PM, and the parish hall corridor suddenly filled with young men of various heights in sharp suits of various materials. There seemed to be a dozen of them. (In fact, there were 11.) And in the hall itself were exactly five young ladies and two mother-chaperones.
Aghast I rushed into the car park and pulled out my phone. Where were my friend's lively, pretty daughters? (My friend didn't answer, so I couldn't find out.) Where were the Xs, and where was Y? Was some girl I had momentarily forgotten perhaps coming up the road? But no, she was not.
It seemed to be as I feared. The TLM demographics--which I thought had improved so much--had defeated me. For years the fact that vastly more men than women go to our TLM--a trend not replicated in any other mixed-sex Catholic community that I can think of--amused me. Yesterday I did not think it very amusing.
However, I managed to pull myself together and remember that God is in charge, so I went back into the hall, appealed to the mother-chaperones' inner debutantes, and we had our party. It began with Austrian Dancing Master bellowing "SILENCE!" at the top of his lungs, which made everybody giggle.
There followed an hour outside our collective comfort zone as the long line of young men and the shorter line of women watched the Dancing Master's steps and tried to replicate them. The first figure was the box step, which wasn't so bad, and then we were asked to pair up and dance it together. And as I was dancing, I looked to the left at all my dancing guests, and Anxiety disappeared. I realized then that everything was fine, and I had nothing to worry about except putting my feet in the right place.
There followed the Right Turn and then the Left Turn, danced to slow pop "waltzes" so saccharine that my partners and I blinked at each other. In vain did I ask for classical music, for whom we were not worthy or ready or something. It was Dancing Master's first time teaching a dance class, so he was a bit harried. We both certainly learned a lot about teaching waltzing, and when we do this again, I will (with their consent) put big red stickers on all the ladies' left shoulder blades to indicate Your Hand Here.
There was a 20 minute break for tea, coffee, squash and snacks, and then we learned--or at any rate were taught--how to transition between the Right Turn and the Left Turn. Those who had partners this time gave it the old college try, and then--after tumultuous applause for the Dancing Master and a kindly round for me--the party disintegrated into a montage of putting the tables back, washing all the dishes, and hoovering the cake crumbs. There was, you see, a Confirmation Class at 5 PM.
Afterwards my guests dispersed or stood outside the hall in a cozy group chatting, and after locking the hall I took Dancing Master out for a drink. Apparently six guests or so had asked that there be another waltzing party after Easter Sunday, so I think--despite the demographic problem, which I will solve if it kills me--the party was a success.